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Movie Reviews: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Dragonball: Evolution, Hannah Montana: The Movie 

Also, The Escapist, Forbidden Lies and more

Wednesday, Apr 8 2009
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GO  ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL With testimonials from the likes of Lemmy Kilmister, Lars Ulrich and Slash, you’d think that Anvil — the subject of Sacha Gervasi’s hilarious and achingly touching documentary — was Canada’s answer to Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. But 13 albums into a career that began in the late ’70s, the metalheads from the Great White North have yet to enjoy the fame and fortune of their fellow hard-rock stars. Director and one-time roadie for the band, Gervasi (who wrote the story for what became The Terminal) follows Anvil’s remaining original members, singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, two nice Jewish knuckleheads of Spinal Tap–ian proportions; Kudlow used to play his guitar with a dildo; his early songs were inspired by the Spanish Inquisition. Amphitheaters the band once shared with Bon Jovi and Whitesnake have given way to sports bars and community centers. They have middle-age fans with names like “Cut Loose” and “Mad Dog,” who drink beer through their noses, not to mention relatives with names like Droid, who still sport feathered hair. And if they’re not missing trains thanks to bumbling managers, they’re being screwed by European club owners (including a Hungarian who is filmed also serving goulash to customers — easily the doc’s funniest moment). But even while trudging through 9-to-5 jobs in their 50s — Kudlow as a driver for a catering company, Reiner as a construction worker — the duo still talk the dream. When you have to schlep all the way to Japan to play a gig at the ungodly hour of 11:35 a.m. just for a little love and recognition, it’s never a question of when, already? but rather why not? For related story, see Music. (Nuart) (Siran Babayan)

DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION It serves you best to not know a damn thing about Akira Toriyama’s much-beloved Dragonball manga (or the TV series and video games it spawned); better to enjoy director James Wong’s loony live-action adaptation for the exquisite-corpse exercise that it is — its rules reinvented and subplots obfuscated with each new set piece. Under the wing of producer Stephen Chow — good-natured king of CGI-laden martial-arts comedy — Evolution is far more entertaining than it deserves to be, unless you’re a 10-year-old boy, in which case it’s only the greatest movie ever made. Two thousand years after nearly destroying Earth, green-skinned demon Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) escapes captivity to hunt down seven of them titular orbs, except he never counted on facing high school hero Goku (Justin Chatwin), a bedheaded wire-fu trainee who geekily pines for ass-kicking classmate Chi Chi (Jamie Chung). Arbitrarily aided by fellow dragonball seekers, including his grandfather’s mentor (Chow Yun-Fat, the only actor dedicated enough to play his role as if still animated), Goku defeats school bullies without touching them, learns to toss blue fireballs, shows up at a fighting tournament, makes stepping stones over lava out of dead goo monsters, becomes a werewolf, resurrects a friend and finds true love. As a cartoonish coming-of-ager, this one goes, well, balls out. (Citywide) (Aaron Hillis)

THE ESCAPIST There’s a certain joy to be had from watching an ace character player such as the barrel-chested Scottish lion Brian Cox sink his teeth into a juicy lead role in a film, even when the film itself is a workmanlike prison-break picture that does nothing to eclipse one’s memory of Robert Bresson — or Don Siegel. Cox (who also executive-produced) cuts a weary yet imposing figure as Frank Perry, a 60-ish lifer resigned to the inevitability of his fate, until news that his junkie daughter is close to death spurs him to concoct an ingenious escape plan replete with the requisite narrow passageways, improvised tools and willing accomplices (well-played by the likes of Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper and Hunger co-star Liam Cunningham). Even though we’ve seen it all before, The Escapist barrels through its opening moments with lean, B-movie industry, as first-time director Rupert Wyatt maps out the prison day to day (including the obligatory episode of steam-shower sodomy) while dispensing with such trivialities as why these men are behind bars in the first place. Then Wyatt tries to get fancy, cutting back and forth between the escape and the events leading up to it — a sub-Tarantino bit of temporal trickery that seems designed to ratchet up the tension but instead dilutes it. Still, all might have been forgiven were it not for a needlessly Shyamalanized ending that deserves to earn Wyatt at least 25 years for grand-theft cinema. (Sunset 5) (Scott Foundas)

GO  FORBIDDEN LIE$ In 2003, 35-year-old Jordanian virgin Norma Khouri published Forbidden Love, her best-selling memoir recounting a Muslim friend’s murder by her father for falling in love with a Christian man. A year later, Khouri was revealed to be a fraud, a married mother of two from Chicago, not Jordan, wanted by the FBI for scamming an elderly neighbor. In an attempt to vindicate herself, Khouri persuaded first-time documentarian Anna Broinowski to suss out “the truth.” At first, Broinowski seems as captivated by Khouri’s cunning and charisma as her victims were, and one of Forbidden Lie$’ deepest pleasures is watching Broinowski’s struggle to resist her subject, as Khouri’s story gradually falls apart. The first half-hour follows Khouri reading from her book to besotted audiences, as Broinowski illustrates the passages with playful re-enactments, often blue-screening Khouri into a scene. Rapid-fire interviews with Khouri’s detractors seem to seal the case against her, but then the film’s heart — an antic sequence worthy of a Hollywood thriller, in which Khouri persuades Broinowski to take a “fact-finding” trip to Jordan — raises doubts again. This entertaining, provocative film raises pointed issues about con artists and their sometimes-culpable “victims,” and also speaks to the elusive pursuit of documentary truth. (Elena Oumano)

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